The Corner

BuzzFeed Wants Underpaid Ballpark Concessions Workers to Get Paid Less

BuzzFeed’s Business section has a story that they apparently find appalling:

How’s this for poor taste: millionaire hedge fund manager Mike Wilkins rented out AT&T Park, home of the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, on Thursday afternoon, just as the stadium’s concession workers are preparing to strike over low wages.

Wilkins, a partner at Kingsford Capital Management, which has more than $400 million under management, and his hedge fund buddies sipped drinks from a bar brought onto the field and took batting practice with a Giants bullpen pitcher, according to two sources with knowledge of the event, one of whom passed along the invitation from Wilkins.

One of the sources described the afternoon as “grown up boys fantasy time” for millionaire hedge fund managers.

That is indeed pretty much what it sounds like, and here’s the tariff for fantasy time:

According to the AT&T Park website, it costs $200,000 to rent out the stadium for a day. Batting practice costs $5,000 per person, or about $500,000 for 100 people without a bulk discount, and includes “use of batting tunnel and dugout with professionally trained staff.” The price also helpfully includes “a paramedic stand-by,” according to the website.

The hedge funders’ afternoon of baseball comes amidst an impending strike by the park’s concession workers, who are demanding employment contracts (they are currently working without contracts) and protesting a proposed three-year wage freeze and healthcare changes.

Apparently, spending $200,000+ at the stadium on a day when it would otherwise stand empty is in poor taste. Perhaps you weren’t about to take lessons in good taste from BuzzFeed anyway, but how exactly do they expect concessions workers to be paid, or paid more, unless the Giants’ owners make money on the operation of their stadium? (Not all stadiums are owned by their tenant team, but AT&T is.)

The idea that we should lament rich guys’ cavorting on an empty major-league baseball field for the sake of concessions workers is probably even more silly than it looks. AT&T Park’s food concessions are contracted out, like just about every stadium, in this case to a South Carolina firm called Centerplate. Presumably most of Centerplate’s 500 employees at the stadium are hourly workers who wouldn’t have gotten work that day, with the Giants out of town, unless rich-enough people or a big-enough organization decided to rent the place out and purchase catering at the stadium. Some of the tens of thousands of dollars spent on food and drink that day likely went straight into these aggrieved concessions workers’ pockets.

Further,a lot of stadium contracts are profit-sharing agreements based on the concession’s performance, so besides the fact that hourly concessions workers just wouldn’t have gotten paid that day, their employer’s bottom line is improved any time a hedge fund spends some exorbitant amount on a day when there would otherwise be no food sold at the park. You don’t think that might help in salary negotiations? (And I’m not even going to get into what a bartender might get tipped during batting practice after a hedge-fund guy finally hits something out of the infield.)

Now, obviously, it’s quite possible that Centerplate’s workers are being paid very poorly for whatever hours they get, or that they see only the most meager slice of whatever profits Centerplate receives from its San Francisco operation. Regardless, there’s no way they’re better off if the ballpark stays empty, and they’re definitely no better off for BuzzFeed’s class-shaming of the people who pay the bills at America’s sports stadiums.

Patrick BrennanPatrick Brennan is a writer and policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He was Director of Digital Content for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, writing op-eds, policy content, and leading the ...


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